[C. H. Spurgeon Picture]

Great British Baptist Pastor In 1800's London
Long Pastor Of Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle
Short Biographical Notes On
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Compiled By James H. Dearmore, Missionary

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Notes On The Early Days Of Charles H. Spurgeon

(Adapted from various sources, by JHD)

Charles Haddon (C. H.) Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher. He and his writings are still very popular among many Christians of various denominations,and he is often referred to as the "Prince of Preachers". He had a strong Baptist tradition in many respects, generally defending the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in many of the Churches of his day.

It is generally accepted that in his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to about 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times in a week at different places. Spurgeon was the pastor of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel (later the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for 38 years. (In his heyday, he often spoke to 10,000 people or more in one venue, and remember; this was without any electronic amplification or assistance of any kind from our modern electronics).

He was involved in several controversies with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and later had to leave the denomination. In 1857, he started a charity organization which is now called Spurgeon's and also founded Spurgeon's College, which was named after him posthumously.

Spurgeon was a prolific author of various types of works including sermons, an autobiography, commentaries, books on prayer, devotionals, magazines, poetry, hymns and much more. Many sermons were transcribed as he spoke and were translated into many languages during his lifetime. He produced powerful sermons of penetrating thought and careful exposition. His oratorical skills held huge crowds spellbound in the Metropolitan Tabernacle and many Christians today have found Spurgeon's messages to be among the greatest ever.

Birth And Conversion

Born in Kelvedon, Essex, Spurgeon's conversion came on 6 January 1850, at age 16. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snow storm forced him to cut short his journey and he turned into a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester where "God opened his heart to the salvation message." The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 – "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else." Later that year on 4 April 1850, he was admitted to the church at Newmarket.

His baptism followed on 3 May in the river Lark, at Isleham. That same year he moved to Cambridge, where he later became a Sunday School teacher. He preached his first sermon in the winter of 1850–51 in a cottage at Teversham, filling in for a friend. Even from the beginning of his ministry his style and ability were considered to be exceptional. That same year, (at age 17) he was installed as pastor of the small Baptist Church at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. It appears that his first published literary work was a Gospel tract written in 1853.

New Park Street Chapel, Spurgeon At Age 23

In April 1854, after preaching three months on probation and only four years after his conversion, (then age 20), Spurgeon was called to the pastorate of London's famed New Park Street Chapel, Southwark (formerly pastored by the famous Particular Baptists Benjamin Keach, theologian John Gill and John Rippon). This was the largest Baptist congregation in London at the time, although it had dwindled in numbers for several years. Spurgeon found friends in London among his fellow pastors, such as William Garrett Lewis of Westbourne Grove Church, an older man. Mr. Lewis spoke at the "laying of the first stone ceremony" of the new Metropolitan Tabernacle, and among other remarks said: "I feel constrained to address my brethren in the ministry also to hear the appeal which God in his providence makes to them, to be faithful, uncompromising, simple, and bold in their declaration of gospel truths." -William Garrett Lewis.

Within a few months of his arrival at Park Street, Spurgeon's ability as a preacher made him famous, and the following year the first of his sermons in the "New Park Street Pulpit" was published. Spurgeon's sermons were published in printed form every week and had a very high circulation. By the time of his death in 1892, he had preached nearly 3,600 sermons and published 49 volumes of commentaries, sayings, anecdotes and illustrations.

Immediately following his fame was criticism. The first attack in the press appeared in the Earthen Vessel in January 1855. His preaching, although not revolutionary in substance, was a plain-spoken and direct appeal to the people, using the Bible to provoke them to consider the teachings of Jesus Christ. Critical attacks from the media persisted throughout his life. The congregation quickly outgrew their building, and moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000. At 22, Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.


On 8 January 1856, Spurgeon married Susannah, daughter of Robert Thompson of Falcon Square, London, by whom he had twin sons, Charles and Thomas born on 20 September 1856. At the end of that year, tragedy struck on 19 October 1856, as Spurgeon was preaching at Surrey Gardens Music Hall for the first time. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Fire!" and the following panic and stampede left several dead. Spurgeon was emotionally devastated, and it had a sobering influence on his life. He struggled against depression for many months.

Walter Thornbury later wrote (1897) describing a subsequent meeting at Surrey: "A congregation consisting of 10,000 souls, streaming into the hall, mounting the galleries, humming, buzzing, and swarming – a mighty hive of bees – eager to secure at first the best places, and, at last, any place at all. After waiting more than half an hour – for if you wish to have a seat you must be there at least that space of time in advance . . . Mr. Spurgeon ascended his tribune (Ed. Note: tribune = platform or pulpit). To the hum, and rush, and trampling of men, succeeded a low, concentrated thrill and murmur of devotion, which seemed to run at once, like an electric current, through the breast of everyone present, and by this magnetic chain the preacher held us fast bound for about two hours. It is not my purpose to give a summary of his discourse. It is enough to say of his voice, that its power and volume are sufficient to reach every one in that vast assembly; of his language that it is neither high-flown nor homely; of his style, that it is at times familiar, at times declamatory, but always happy, and often eloquent; of his doctrine, that neither the 'Calvinist' nor the 'Baptist' appears in the forefront of the battle which is waged by Mr. Spurgeon with relentless animosity, and with Gospel weapons, against irreligion, cant, hypocrisy, pride, and those secret bosom-sins which so easily beset a man in daily life; and to sum up all in a word, it is enough to say, of the man himself, that he impresses you with a perfect conviction of his sincerity."

A Pastors' College founded by Spurgeon in 1857 was renamed Spurgeon's College in 1923, when it moved to its present building in South Norwood Hill, London.

At the Fast Day, 7 October 1857, he preached to the largest crowd ever – 23,654 people – at The Crystal Palace in London.

God Moves In A Mysterious Way, His Wonders To Perform

Spurgeon later commented: "In 1857, a day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was being done, heard the words, and they came like a message from heaven to his soul. He was smitten with conviction on account of sin, put down his tools, went home, and there, after a season of spiritual struggling, found peace and life by beholding the Lamb of God. Years after, he told this story to one who visited him on his death-bed.

On 18 March 1861, the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed purpose-built Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, Southwark, seating 5000 people with standing room for another 1000. The Metropolitan Tabernacle was the largest church edifice of its day. Spurgeon continued to preach there several times per week until his death 31 years later. He never gave altar calls at the conclusion of his sermons, but he always extended the invitation that if anyone was moved to seek an interest in Christ by his preaching on a Sunday, they could meet with him at his vestry on Monday morning.

Without fail, there was always someone at his door the next day. He wrote his sermons out fully before he preached, but what he carried up to the pulpit was a note card with an outline sketch. Stenographers would take down the sermon as it was delivered and Spurgeon would then have opportunity to make revisions to the transcripts the following day for immediate publication. His weekly sermons, which sold for a penny each, were widely circulated and still remain one of the all-time best selling series of writings published in history.

Prolific Writer of Sermons, Commentaries, Hymns and More

Besides sermons, Spurgeon also wrote several hymns and published a new collection of worship songs in 1866 called "Our Own Hymn Book". It was mostly a compilation of Isaac Watts's Psalms and Hymns that had been originally selected by John Rippon, a Baptist predecessor to Spurgeon. Singing in the congregation was exclusively a cappella under his pastorate. Thousands heard the preaching and were led in the singing without any amplification of sound that exists today. Hymns were a subject that he took seriously. While Spurgeon was still preaching at New Park Street, a hymn book called "The Rivulet" was published. Spurgeon aroused controversy because of his critique of its theology, which was largely deistic. At the end of his review, Spurgeon warned: "We shall soon have to handle truth, not with kid gloves, but with gauntlets, – the gauntlets of holy courage and integrity. Go on, ye warriors of the cross, for the King is at the head of you."

On 5 June 1862, Spurgeon challenged the Church of England when he preached against baptismal regeneration. Spurgeon supported the work of missions financially and also aided in the work of cross-cultural evangelism by promoting "The Wordless Book", a teaching tool that he described in a message given on 11 January 1866, regarding Psalm 51:7: "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The book has been and is still used to teach illiterate people and people of other cultures and languages – young and old – around the globe about the Gospel message.

Following the example of George Mόller, Spurgeon founded the Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and for girls in 1879, and which continued in London until it was bombed in the Second World War. The orphanage became Spurgeon's Child Care which still exists today. On the death of missionary David Livingstone in 1873, a discolored and much-used copy of one of Spurgeon's printed sermons, "Accidents, Not Punishments," was found among his few possessions much later, along with the handwritten comment at the top of the first page: "Very good, D. L." He had carried it with him throughout his travels in Africa. It was returned to Spurgeon and treasured by him.

The Downgrade Controversy

A controversy among the Baptists flared in 1887 with Spurgeon's first "Down-grade" article, published in The Sword & the Trowel. In the ensuing "Downgrade Controversy," Metropolitan Tabernacle became disaffiliated from the Baptist Union, effectuating Spurgeon's congregation as the world's largest self-standing church. Contextually the Downgrade Controversy was British Baptists' equivalent of hermeneutic tensions which were starting to divide fellowships in general.

The Controversy took its name from Spurgeon's use of the term "Downgrade" to describe certain other Baptists' outlook toward the Bible (i.e., they had "downgraded" the Bible and the principle of sola scriptura). Spurgeon alleged that an incremental creeping of the Documentary Hypothesis, (sometimes called the Graf-Wellhausen hyposthesis), Darwin's theory of evolution, and other concepts was weakening the BU and explaining the success of his own evangelistic efforts.

Final Years And Death

Spurgeon's wife was often too ill to leave home to hear him preach. Spurgeon also suffered ill health toward the end of his life, afflicted by a combination of rheumatism, gout and Bright's disease. He often recuperated at Menton, near Nice, France, where he eventually died on 31 January 1892. Spurgeon was survived by his wife and sons. His remains were buried at West Norwood Cemetery in London, where the tomb is still visited by admirers. His son Tom became the Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle after his father died.

Editorial Notes About Spurgeon By JHD

Although I do not agree with Mr. Spurgeon in every jot and tittle, (even some things bigger than jots and tittles) I love his writings, and have copies of nearly all of them in my personal library, and refer to them from time to time.

I also consider Charles Spurgeon to be perhaps the greatest preacher in history since New Testament Days, and as probably also the greatest public speaker on the Bible or Religion in the History of the World, except for the Lord Himself and some of the Old Testament prophets and some of the New Testament era speakers.

My son, James, and I are working hard to publish more and more of Spurgeon's materials on our GospelWeb site. More is being added almost daily - See many of his sermons at: http://www.gospelweb.net/spurgeonsermonindex17.htm . As more volumes are published (soon) we will be organizing and posting a centralized INDEX OF SPURGEON INDEXES on GospelWeb to expedite your finding what you want among his works. God bless. Please pray for our web projects and mention the GospelWeb address to all your friends. James H. Dearmore, Missionary.

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